Desiree Ellis has been to enough Cosafa Women’s Championships to know that her new-look Banyana Banyana side should fare well when the tournament begins on Tuesday, 3 November in Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth.
Banyana raised the bar so high and enjoyed a great deal of success in the regional tournament that it would be churlish to doubt their credentials for a repeat showing despite the unavailability of Ellis’ overseas-based stars.
Their dominance and reputation have put them on the spot as the team to beat and Ellis is well aware that retaining the trophy will be far more challenging, but with some exciting new talent to keep an eye on, she is optimistic that Banyana will claim their fourth consecutive Cosafa Women’s Championship title.
“We have always used the Cosafa Women’s Championship as a chance to give new and young players an opportunity to see if they can rise to the occasion, play in international competition and give them the experience. We always say if you want to conquer Africa you first have to conquer your own region” said Ellis, who has selected several young players for the tournament.
“So we are using a number of players from the Under-20 team, and we have also recalled Gabriela Salgado who played in 2018.
“We also have some new caps such as [defenders] Karabo Makhurubetshi from Mamelodi Sundowns, and Xiluva Tshabalala, who we saw at the SASOL championships.
“But we also have players who went to the World Cup, such as our captain [goalkeeper] Andile Dlamini, and [defenders] Kaylyn Jordaan and Bongeka Gamede. Then there is the evergreen Mamello [Makhabane], who is the vice-captain of the team and Robyn Moodaly,” added Ellis.
Banyana are drawn against Eswatini, Comoros and Angola in Group B and will start their title defence with a clash against Angola on November 3 before tackling Eswatini and Comoros.
The defending champions are eyeing a record seventh triumph and will be looking to continue their fine run of form in the tournament as Ellis intends to widen the pool of national team players.
“We have a young group with a little bit of a mix of experience. Nine of the players that participated at last year’s Cosafa Women’s Championship are now playing abroad, so we almost have a new squad for this year’s Cosafa,” she said.
Banyana Banyana Squad for the Cosafa Women’s Championship:
Goalkeepers: Kaylin Christen Swart (Unattached), Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns FC)
Defenders: Karabo Makhurubetshi (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Koketso Mmathabo Tlailane (TUT-Pretoria), Bongeka Gamede (University of Western Cape), Sibulele Cecilia Holweni (University of Western Cape), Xiluva Tshabalala (Ma-Indies FC), Ongeziwe Ndlangisa (Sunflower FC), Kaylyn Octavia Jordaan (Spurs WFC)
Midfielders: Oratile Dikgosi Mokwena (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Mamello Makhabane (JVW FC), Gabriela de Jesus Thomas Salgado (JVW FC), Robyn Kimberly Moodaly (JVW FC), Nonhlanhla Mthandi (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Mapule Nomvula Kgoale (TUT-Pretoria), Karabo Angel Dhlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Lonathemba Mhlongo (Durban Ladies FC)
Strikers: Hildah Tholakele Magaia (TUT-Pretoria), Neliswa Praiseworth Luthuli (Sunflower FC), Pride Itebogeng Nthite (TUT-Pretoria).
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi